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An FDA tranquilizer has become a popular new street drug in America, causing major concerns as one of its side effects causes flesh rotting in users among other harmful effects.

According to reports, public health officials and law enforcement have seen a spike in usage of the drug xylazine in cities across the country. Commonly known on the streets as “tranq,” xylazine is a tranquilizer that veterinarians use to sedate horses and has been known to cause grave side effects in users such as the tightening of blood vessels leading to abscesses and skin ulcers that if untreated can rot down to the bone.

Xylazine has been found by authorities to be coupled with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin. That combination has led to a sharp rise in fatal overdoses recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in three years from 260 in 2018 to 3,480 in 2021. Data compiled shows that xylazine-positive overdose deaths rose tenfold in southern U.S. states since 2020 and sevenfold in western states. Philadelphia and New York City have also seen sharp upticks in overdoses including fatal ones linked to xylazine over the same period of time.

Authorities have expressed concern about tranq’s rise, with Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Dr. Rahul Gupta declaring it an emerging threat in May in a report issued through the White House. “Testing for xylazine is uneven across the United States, which makes it hard to get the national picture,” he said in the report. “Many communities are not even aware of this threat in their backyards.”

Observers have noted that the rise of xylazine combined with fentanyl might be due to the recent crackdowns on fentanyl on the streets. “That’s really driven drug manufacturers to start to integrate xylazine into the supply. It’s cheaper and it also makes the high last longer,” said Maritza Perez Medina, a researcher with the Drug Policy Alliance. Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opines that “Maybe the products are coming already mixed into the United States,” citing drug-sample data collected by law enforcement in Mexico.